Staffing shortages have forced more than three quarters of hospital trusts in England have actively recruited nurses from overseas over the past four years, a survey has suggested.
Spain and Portugal were the most popular destinations for teams of NHS recruiters, the research by ITV News found – echoing previous findings from a major investigation by Nursing Times.
The ITV researchers made Freedom of Information requests to England’s 160 acute hospital trusts, receiving responses from 74.
The results showed that 57 trusts – 77% of those that provided data – confirmed they had actively recruited from other European Union countries since 2010.
In addition, 50 of them, 67%, had sent a recruitment team abroad to try and attract nurses to work at their hospitals. Most had targeted Spain and Portugal, but trusts also reported seeking nurses from Ireland and Italy.
ITV claimed the survey had also revealed that 31% of nurses currently employed in England’s hospitals have non-UK nationality.
The findings build on an investigation by Nursing Times into overseas recruitment carried out this time last year.
We found at least a third of hospital trusts in England had actively recruited from overseas in the 12 months to October 2013, as managers responded to warnings about safe staffing levels in the Francis report on care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
Of the 105 acute trusts that responded to a Freedom of Information request by Nursing Times, 40 had actively recruited nurses from overseas – leading to more than 1,360 nurses coming to work in England. A further 41 trusts said they planned to actively recruit from overseas in the near future.
Nursing Times is currently repeating the investigation to gauge if the situation has changed over the past 12 months. We will publish findings next month.
In a statement responding to the ITV figures, the Department of Health said: “Nurses recruited from abroad make a valuable contribution to patient care but they should only work in the NHS if they have the right skills.
“There are 6,300 more nurses on our wards than in 2010. Trusts are responsible for planning and recruiting their workforce and ensuring they have the appropriate levels of staff.”